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Indonesia again turns down offer to help fight haze

SINGAPORE — Indonesia again turned down Singapore’s offer of help to deal with the haze that has choked the region, during a meeting between officials from both countries in Jakarta yesterday (Oct 1).

Haze as seen from Potong Pasir at 5pm on Oct 1, 2015. Photo: Daryl Kang/TODAY

Haze as seen from Potong Pasir at 5pm on Oct 1, 2015. Photo: Daryl Kang/TODAY

SINGAPORE — Indonesia again turned down Singapore’s offer of help to deal with the haze that has choked the region, during a meeting between officials from both countries in Jakarta yesterday (Oct 1).

At the meeting, held at the invitation of Indonesia, Singapore’s officials — led by Permanent Secretary Choi Shing Kwok of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources — had reiterated and explained its offer of assistance to tackle the fires, including the provision of one Chinook helicopter to conduct water bombing and one C-130 aircraft for cloud-seeding operations. 

“Indonesia clarified at the meeting that it had enough resources of its own and did not need to call on the assistance offered by Singapore at this time,” the ministry said in a statement today.

The meeting was attended by the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Head of National Disaster Management Agency Willem Rampangilei. 

Singapore has repeatedly offered assistance to Indonesia since the haze worsened last month, most recently when Defence Ng Eng Hen flew to Jakarta to meet his Indonesian counterpart earlier this week.

Indonesian officials have maintained that the country is able to handle the fire-fighting operations, although its Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has struck a different note, saying it was open to help from all countries including Singapore.  

The haze here lingered at unhealthy levels today, with the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) at 99 to 129 as at 7pm. The three-hour PSI was 118 and the one-hour PM2.5 concentration was 43 to 80 microgrammes per cubic metre.

The 24-hour PSI tomorrow is expected to be between the mid and high sections of the unhealthy range, and may enter the low end of the very unhealthy range if denser haze is blown in. “Visibility is likely to deteriorate especially in the morning when humidity is high, as moisture has a swelling  effect on the haze particles,” the National Environment Agency (NEA) added. 

During the meeting yesterday, the Singapore delegation was also briefed on the measures being undertaken by the Indonesian government in Sumatra and Kalimantan to tackle land and forest fires. Also addressed was law enforcement actions by Indonesia against errant companies, and Singapore explained how the Republic’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act (THPA) can supplement Indonesia’s actions while respecting Indonesia’s sovereignty.  

Separately, Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP Group) said it has provided information to the NEA, which last week made a request to the locally-incorporated Asia Pulp and Paper Company (APP) under the THPA. APP Group, which had clarified in a Straits Times report that it is a separate company from APP, also said it has invited the NEA to visit APP’s operations in Indonesia.

“Irrespective of the relationship between (the two entities), we are committed to working together with the NEA on this issue,” APP Group added.

When contacted, NEA did not comment on whether it would take up APP Group’s invitation. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NEO CHAI CHIN

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